Episode 3a: “The Coming of Rei, the Handsome Shapechanger!”
Original airdate: 10/28/1981
Corresponding manga chapter: “The Things We Do For Love”, volume 1, chapter 6 (Viz release)
Major characters introduced: Rei
Summary: Yet again, Cherry is on hand to warn that Ataru is in danger, this time from possession by evil spirits. (You’d think they’d have the idea by now.) After explaining that his name is actually Sakuramboo (which can be read “Deranged Priest”), he explains that Lum is a parasite feeding on his life. Lum insists that she loves Ataru, and right on cue the lights go out. The couples head off to their respective bedrooms, while Cherry leaves, bemoaning fact that the whole family seems to be cursed.
Cut to Shinobu, who will not allow rain nor snow nor demented monks to stay her from visiting Ataru (who, to be fair, is the most eligible of the four named male characters we’ve met so far), although at this point she may just want to spite Lum. Her reverie is interrupted by the crash of a tiger-striped spaceship, from which falls a handsome young man with green hair, horns, and a tiger-skinned jumpsuit.
Back in Ataru’s room, Lum is trying to lure him into the futon, which breaks down into conflict when she realizes that he’s expecting Shinobu, and he winds up taking a chair to the face. Shinobu arrives at that moment, in this fashion:
Ataru and Lum recognize him as Rei. When Mrs. Moroboshi goes to check on the noise, she finds Rei pursuing Lum around the room, and Ataru explains that he’s Lum’s ex-fiancee. His mother is instantly struck by the handsome young man, and goes off to get snacks. Ataru tries to persuade Lum to return to her homeworld with Rei, but she refuses on the grounds that he turns into a weird monster, which Shinobu insists is no barrier to true love. Mrs. Moroboshi returns at this point with a plate full of sweet potatoes and a face full of makeup, at least one of which charms Rei. Ataru remarks that he’s a fast mover, to which Lum replies:
It turns out that he just loved Mrs. Morboshi for her sweet, sweet potatoes, which he wolfs down with abandon. Lum bemoans that he hasn’t changed a bit, something Shinobu has a hard time accepting from such a handsome man (“But his looks are all he’s got!”). The bickering leads to Lum going full Jerry Springer and claiming that she’s carrying Ataru’s baby. (Technically, “In my tummy is DARLING’S BABY!”, which sounds like a setup for a disturbing darkfic.)
Time stands still as Lum is pleased with her latest ploy, and with a little prodding from Ten, Rei hulks out into a kaiju-sized tiger-cow thing. The Self-Defense Force is called out (as if that ever helps) but Ten helpfully suggests that Rei challenge Ataru to a duel instead. Rei drops in at the playground where the others are waiting, and utters his first intelligble word in the episode:
Ataru reluctantly agrees to the duel rather than being summarily shot, and a crowd forms around them as they sit in a thunderstorm wearing a cross between German WWI helmets and lightning rods. Lum and Shinobu encourage Ataru not to die, Mrs. Moroboshi cheers on Rei, and a haze of lightning appears around the combatants. Rei loses by transforming (one hopes that the rules were explained to Ataru, because they weren’t explained to the audience). Mrs. Moroboshi tends to Rei, giving a significant non-answer when her husband asks if she prefers Rei to him. The girls run over to Ataru, switching quickly from cheering him to bickering over which one his victory was for, and Ataru moans that he is indeed susceptible to evil spirits.
Changes from the manga version: The only significant differences between versions are that Rei doesn’t kaiju out in the manga (the animators seem to be fond of injecting that, as we also saw in “Mrs. Swallow and Mrs. Penguin”) and the duel takes the form of a sweet potato eating contest. (And Ten isn’t in it, of course.)
Thoughts: We jump back to the early manga here, having skipped over three chapters that will turn up later; most of the significant Oni characters have turned up at this point. Rei is never a major player in the series, because he’s a pretty limited character, but he does serve as a different tug-of-war rope to give Ataru a break.
This episode shows us different sides of a couple of characters. This one proves that Cherry is right about the Moroboshis in that none of them really have much attachment to each other. Ataru’s parents had already bemoaned having him, and in this episode we see that their marriage is pretty lousy as well. (Fortunately, at this point in the series it’s played for laughs, in a very Charlie Brown manner.)
We also see Lum’s bad side for the first time. In previous episodes she’s been killing Ataru through kindness; this time we see her jealousy and pettiness for the first time, although it’s still out of misplaced affection at this point.
Shinobu’s continued interest in Ataru actually makes more sense if it’s driven by jealousy over Lum than actual affection for Ataru, who hasn’t shown any positive personality traits at this point. She also appears to only own one outfit besides her school uniform.
We see a contrast between the early and the later manga here by comparing Ataru’s interaction with Rei and Ten. Ten is a long-time foil for Ataru; neither character is going anywhere, and the fact that their conflict mostly takes the form of sniping leaves open a range of story possibilites. Rei, on the other hand, is just another bumper for the pinball of Ataru’s complicated love life to bounce off of. Ataru has pretty much no agency in this episode, so there’s really not a lot he can do to Rei at this point. (This opens up a little in the next segment.)
Episode 3a: “Die, Ladykiller!”
Original airdate: 10/28/1981
Corresponding manga chapter: “The Way to a Man’s Heart”, volume 1, chapter 7 (Viz release)
Minor characters introduced: The lovey couple (see below)
Summary: Ten is bored, so Lum offers him something fun: going to see Darling. Ten is unimpressed.
Meanwhile, Ataru, Megane, Chibi and Kakugari are walking down the street when they see a crowd around the grand opening of a Beefbowl restaurant. Cutting through the crowd, they discover that Rei, in tiger-cow form, is eating everything in sight. Rei grabs Ataru:
who orders more Beefbowl in self-defense. (Rei’s goofy cow form here is the form it will take from now on, rather than the slightly more dignified creature in the previous segment.)
Ataru and the Stormtroopers watch in awe as Rei devours another bowl. When Ataru mentions that this is Rei, Megane scoffs, wondering what sort of alter ego this weird cow thing could have. Rei transforms into his handsome form, prompting a round of protests that looks aren’t everything, after all. Not one to remain dignified for long, Rei pulls an inflatable Lum doll from his jumpsuit and embraces it while transforming back into cow mode. To compound the embarrassment, he squeezes too hard and the doll shoots into the distance in a very Takahashi-esque moment. The guys fall about laughing, and Lum and Ten arrive to find them exeunting pursued by a cow.
Ten explains that Rei saved his money to travel here and see Lum, then spent all his money in the restaurant (“It’s because he’s like that, that I dumped him!”) Ataru slyly suggests that if Rei is serious, he should propose properly. The Stormtroopers agree, knowing that he can’t speak any Earth languages (ignoring the fact that he could just propose in their native language), but Rei whips out a Japanese phrasebook:
(Those Oni put tiger stripes on everything!) Rei insists that Lum promised him something, but the others unwisely mock him, leading to more cow-Hulking out and exeunting. The owner of the restaurant runs after them demanding payment, but Ten helpfully gives him Ataru’s name, home address, and a map.
Ataru and the Stormtroopers trade recriminations while fleeing, but are able to gain a temporary lead when Rei stops to eat a fruit stand he collided with (whose proprietor also gets a map from Ten). The pursuit brings them between a young couple, leading Rei to turn humanoid again and ask the woman to cook for him for the rest of his life. This leads to a chain of running and proposing, until, after leaping on the cart of a chestnut vendor, he grabs a megaphone and broadcasts his request to every woman in the vicinity. The ever-helpful Ten gives a map to the chestnut vendor, maps to all the young women (to where he supposedly lives) and to all the disgruntled boyfriends (so they can get revenge).
Cut to Shinobu and an unnamed friend talking about her relationship with Ataru, which Shinobu confesses has gotten a bit weird lately. The friends asks what she would do, if, just hypothetically, another man proposed to her. Shinobu insists that could never happen, thus tempting the Comedy Fates into dropping Rei into her arms. Shinobu says she’ll have to think it over, since he is a dimwitted, gluttonous cow alien, prompting Ataru into the mother of all double standards by accusing her of being a flirtatious witch. This exchange ends up with him being smashed into a brick wall.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Moroboshi is at home preparing dinner when Rei bursts in and proposes to her, once again causing her to question what she’s done with her life. She doesn’t have long to ponder, as her son and friends burst through the door, followed by a lovestruck mob. As Rei pulls out the phrasebook and explains that he was misunderstood, an angry mob armed with a variety of blunt instruments arrived, spurred on by Ten, who is no longer bored, and the scene dissolves into chaos.
Changes from the manga version: The only noteworthy change is that Ten isn’t spurring things along in the manga.
Thoughts: This version of Rei is more typical than the one we saw in the last episode. Apart from that, two long runners are introduced in this episode. Beefbowl (a bowl of noodle soup topped with beef) is a luxury the high school students often seek out, as a tasty and filling meal that’s usually a bit outside their price range. The lovey couple appear more often in the manga: they’re a couple who profess their love for each other in public places, usually before being interrupted by something absurd. In the manga they’re given a series of comical, matching names: in this story they’re Miss Noodle and Mr. Soup.
This is the first case where the anime version adds something that definitely improves the story, instead of just restructuring it. Ten’s orchestration of the disaster at the end is both funny and adds additional structure to the plot. The scene with the inflated doll is also funnier (and clearer) in the anime.
The manga doesn’t have Lum’s Stormtroopers per se, but one of them appears to be the source character for Megane. (Another one somewhat resembles Kakugari, but his design is more generic.)
Next episode: Introducing Kintaro!